By Jonathon Van Maren
As the chaos and conspiracy theories swirling around the train-wreck presidential election continue apace, many MAGA diehards seem positive that without Donald Trump, the GOP is useless. It is hard to tell who speaks for the president and who doesn’t these days, but Trump attorney Lin Wood is willing to play brinkmanship with the Senate, urging people not to vote in the two Georgia runoff races. If the GOP holds the Senate, Biden will be prevented from court-packing, the Equality Act, and other transformative elements of his agenda. If the crackpots driving the Trump clown car get their way, the Democrat could end up controlling both houses of Congress as well as the presidency.
Despite what many Trump supporters are saying, the election outcome was not a disaster by any stretch. As I noted in a previous TAC column, the rise in support from racial minorities indicates the potential for a new fusionism of social conservatism and economic populism. As it turns out, demography is not destiny. American voters also delivered a firm rebuke to the progressive fringe increasingly dominating the Democratic Party, not only denying them the expected blue wave but handing the GOP enough congressional seats to make a Republican takeover of the House in 2022 likely. The Democrats and their progressive allies spent the year trumpeting critical race theory, grievance politics, and gender ideology. Voters told them to shove off.
But over the past month, I’ve seen many conservatives increasingly insist that the GOP needs Trump because “he fights.” Without Trump, the narrative goes, we wouldn’t have a conservative-leaning Supreme Court, an increasingly conservative judiciary, and a laundry list of other policies favored especially by social conservatives. Many are ignoring the fact that Trump has no idea how to actually govern. Trump didn’t write the executive orders. He didn’t create the policies. He merely enabled them, while long-time (and much-maligned) GOP stalwarts did all of the heavy lifting. Trump certainly deserves credit for that, but the idea that he was the strategic brains behind the policy successes of the last four years is delusional.
A perfect example is the Supreme Court. After Trump stood by Brett Kavanaugh throughout the excruciating Democratic witch hunt, many Trump fans insisted that no other GOP president would have done such a thing. That is obvious nonsense. George H.W. Bush stood by Clarence Thomas when he was accused of sexual misconduct by Anita Hill, and that’s why Thomas is on the Court today. Trump’s judicial picks were selected by others, and the credit for the new makeup of the Supreme Court and the hundreds of other judges goes not primarily to Trump, but to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—a creature of the D.C. swamp if there ever was one. McConnell was there when Trump arrived, and he’ll be there long after Trump goes—and America’s judicial makeover is due to his years of careful planning.